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23-story apartment building near Oriole Park gets tax break

The financial oversight arm of the city government yesterday approved a tax break to encourage the development of a $32 million, 191-unit apartment building that will rise 23 stories near Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The city's Board of Estimates voted in favor of 15 years of reduced real estate taxes for the Zenith apartment building that will be built starting this fall at the corner of Paca and Pratt streets. The panel also approved the sale of a city-owned, 24,000- square-foot parking lot at the site on which the project will be built.

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"This is the gateway to the west side of downtown as you drive in, and it will be tremendously visible - a key to the revitalization of the whole neighborhood," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development agency.

Legacy Harrison Development will buy the land for $750,000, 18 years after the city paid $456,000 for it. The project will be led by Brian Morris, a member of the city school board who owns a financial planning firm, and Dean Harrison, a developer who formerly worked with A & R Development on the construction of the 151 unit Redwood Towers on Eutaw Street.

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Apartments in the upscale, market-rate building - which is near where the city is trying to encourage developers to build a convention center hotel - are expected to rent from $1,200 to $2,500 a month.

In November 2001, four competing developers submitted proposals to the Baltimore Development Corp. for the site. The agency in April 2002 picked Legacy Harrison as the best firm with the best proposal.

In addition to the apartments, the developers also plan to build a parking garage with 257 spaces and 5,000 square feet of retail space.

One challenge that the developers had to overcome was lowering the proposed building from 27 stories to 23 stories to allow helicopters to land atop the nearby Maryland Shock Trauma medical center.

By cutting out those four stories, the developers had to shrink their proposed parking garage, which they had hoped would be a source of greater profit, city officials said.

For this reason, the developers knocked down their offer for the land from $1.2 million to $750,000, city officials said. At one point in 2001, the city hired an appraiser who estimated the land was worth $1.9 million.


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